Jesus welcomed the people, taught them about the Kingdom of God and healed those in need. Luke 9:11
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Seeds of the Kingdom

When there are no easy answers

by John Sainsbury

[In the face of enormous sorrow] Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship.
Job 1:20, NIV

If you are at all familiar with the incredible book of Job in the Old Testament, you will know that it deals with one of the trickiest questions of life; a question frequently thrown in the face of anyone who claims to follow Jesus: How can a loving God allow suffering?

Yet, suffering is only really a problem for those who do have faith in a loving God. Those without Jesus in their lives often see it as part of the absurdity of a life without ultimate purpose.

What I love about the book of Job is that those who claim to have the answers all nice and neatly worked out are the very ones shown to be completely missing the mark. In their simple logic God blesses those who obediently follow him. Therefore, anyone who is suffering, as Job is, must have done something wrong. It’s a bit like saying: all candles are made of wax, therefore anything made of wax must be a candle. That logic doesn’t work and nor does the logic of Job’s friends because, as we know from reading chapters 1 and 2, there is a far bigger story in operation about which neither Job nor his friends have any idea.  The ‘friends’’ versions of suffering are variations on the theme that Job must have somehow sinned and therefore deserved or brought about the sorrow he was experiencing. But we know this simply wasn’t the reason!

Sometimes, we can see that suffering does come as a result of our own actions or through the actions of others. One huge example would be when God allowed Adam and Eve to have the freedom to make choices that had major implications for them and all of us. But that is not to say that our subsequent sufferings (including Job’s - which were certainly severe) are simply the outworking of the choices of human beings.

As Job grapples to understand how it is that he is suffering so terribly when he had lived so well and tried so hard to be righteous before his God, we find that there is a much bigger picture that he has no idea about (chapters 1 and 2). And, even when God graciously speaks into his confusion later in the story, Job is never given a clear explanation as to why he has suffered so much (chapters 38 onwards). Perhaps, though, this is part of the point of this poetic masterclass: sometimes there are no simple A+B=C explanations: that is why we need faith. As Bible Commentator David Atkinson says: “Faith is learning to trust God in the dark.”

Maybe today, as you read this, you aren’t in a good place. Maybe nothing is making sense right now and it even feels as if God has turned against you. If that is the case, then may I encourage you to take heart from the lessons of Job. Even when the worst things imaginable came upon him, completely without cause, Job mourned: Yes, and rightly so. But he also continued to worship his God. He didn’t understand and he had no simplistic answers. There were no platitudes. But still he maintained his faith in God.

I find the book of Job remarkable. It reminds us that there is a far bigger story outworking in all our lives. And faith is what God gives us to help live with the uncertainties: until, one day, all will become clear (1 Corinthians 13:12).

John Sainsbury and his wife Sue are part of the leadership team at Ellel Grange. John has served as a church leader for many years, most recently as Lead Pastor of the Garstang Free Methodist Church. He has a passion for seeing many brought into the fulness of life that following Christ brings.


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